Ian Fortune

As with any Derby on either side of the sea, the third round is always when things really start to heat up. That is certainly the case at Towcester this evening as the final forty-eight go to war in the Star Sports/TRC English Derby.

Of the forty-eight, twenty-two are trained on these shores and hopes are high for another bold showing from the raiding party. Certainly, given the make-up of tonight’s heats and the strength of their challenge, it would be something of a surprise if the majority didn’t shift to the Irish in next week’s quarter finals.


The opening heat can set the tone with Ireland sending out the top four in the market, including reigning Irish Derby champion The Other Kobe who is around the even money mark to continue his winning ways through the classic.

Drawn in two, he looks certain to lead up those around him, although Clonbrien Treaty has a perfect draw in the stripes and should emerge as a serious threat. Throw in Cesarewitch winner Singalong Dolly and Hawkfield Blue and it really should go the way of the Irish.

The Other Kobe is chosen to save ground on the fence and make virtually all to see off Clonbrien Treaty. Hopefully, one of Singalong Dolly or Hawkfield Blue can fill the frame.


The Paul Hennessy trained Boylesports Bob may have suffered a narrow defeat in the second round but he really impressed, showing huge pace and power. He is amongst the favourites for outright glory and is set to start a hot favourite in Heat 2, where Liam Dowling’s 2022 Irish Derby runner-up Ballymac Finn stands out as the main threat. Faypoint Sean completes a strong Irish challenge.

Ballymac Pivotel is the best of the home team in this contest but he may struggle to worry the judge unless coming through the bars. Boylesports Bob can confirm favouritism.


The Irish again dominate the betting in Heat 4 where Superfast Gorden will look to follow up his sensational second round effort. The Pat Buckley trained star has the best of the draw on the fence and will likely take some stopping but Jaytee Etienne is drawn next door to him and is greatly respected also.

The latter has been showing all sorts of pace in recent outings and if finding his trapping boots could go very fast indeed. Expect the Irish to finish first and second in this contest.


With no fewer than five runners, the Irish will be expected to win Heat 5 also. Edwards, the sole UK runner, is no forlorn hope although he will need a career best effort to win. The battle for early supremacy could come down to Grouchos Duke and the hugely exciting Antigua Hawk.

If the latter were to turn in front, as he has done in his last two start, he could be very difficult to pick up. If Groucho Duke manages to dictate, however, it would have a big on the outcome. He hasn’t been quite getting home and were he to hold up one or two of the runners around the last two bends, it could potentially set the pace up for a big finisher like Mcneill. Glengar Mattha will also bid to get off the front from a wide draw and must enter calculations, while Ballymac Gizmo has been showing signs of life in recent outings and it would b no surprise if he were to make a bold bid also. This contest is a real conundrum but predictably, we will suggest an Irish winner is an inevitability.


Heat 6 is a red-hot contest with one of the UK’s best taking on two of Ireland’s finest. Crafty Shivoo, the 2023 Irish Oaks champ, is now representing Mark Wallis and Team England. She has outstanding claims from an inside draw after going fastest in the second round but she will need to be at her best with De Lahdedah and defending champion Gaytime Nemo set to make a bold bid.

De Lahdedah flew home to win from four last weekend and he again wears the black. Gaytime Nemo supporters will be hoping he can fly from trap three. Slight preference is for De Lahdedah but he needs to be at his best yet again.


Heat 7 is every bit as hot as the previous, if not hotter. Long-time Derby favourite King Memphis faces his toughest test of this Derby campaign by some margin. Drawn on the fence, he needs to be at his very sharpest as Swords rex, in two, is set to explode from traps and potentially make every inch.

He is one of four talented Irish runners in the contest. Ballinabola Ed wasback to something like his best last week and will have support, while Road Exile and Azurite are far from box-fillers. It’s another exceptional contest but one suspects Swords Rex will continue his love affair with Towcester.


Hawkfield Abbie and Ballymac Slick are Ireland’s two representatives in Heat 8. In what looks a wide-open affair, neither can be dismissed. Hawkfield Abbie would need to be at her sharpest in the early yards. In contrast, Ballymac Slick has the ability to come from off the pace. If he were to receive a clear passage, he wouldn’t be far away. Have no doubt, he is a big player in this contest.